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Golden Five Minutes

It’s been a hectic week, I’ve been preoccupied with things that didn’t involve birds, photography or any combination of those two. So let’s just say it hasn’t been an ideal week :-). Finally got around to process a few images from the week before – in particular from one afternoon we spent with another flock of migratory birds. I’ve been talking about Dickcissels quite frequently recently, and with good reason. They’re literally all over the island. There are large flocks in both the north and south of the island, and each day they depart (in spectacular fashion) in search of food, returning to their roost sites en masse.

This time, however, we failed to locate any Dickcissels at one of their usual roost sites, instead we were treated to a small flock of Barn Swallows. There was only one issue – the birds were between myself and the sun. I just had to wait a little while for the sun to dip lower in the sky, softening the light just a tad. The problem with living in the tropics is that the sun literally drops out of the sky. One minute it’s way too harsh, and before you know it, the light’s gone. For the shot in mind, I needed a quick shutter speed, so I needed as much light as possible. With a heavy heart, I decided to start shooting into the brutal sun.

Before long, I was making images that let me know I was on the right track. Barn Swallows have delicate markings on their tails that have always fascinated me. Only visible for a fleeting moment under regular conditions, I was fortunate with these birds continually surfing the moderate breeze over the grasses.

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Thick and fast they came, oftentimes there’d be more than one bird in the frame. Focus was extremely difficult to maintain, and the sun beating on my forehead was starting to give me a headache.

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The sun disappeared behind a thick cloud long before it even neared the horizon (naturally), giving me no warning whatsoever. Luckily, I was able to make this image – my favourite of the lot – showing those white spots in the tail perfectly.

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When the light returned for a brief moment, the swallows were long gone, but I didn’t pass up the opportunity with a perched Tropical Kingbird!

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It’s sad though, that in areas that were once throbbing with birdlife a couple years ago, it seems as if the birds have all but disappeared. I know it may not seem that way judging from one of my blog posts, but believe me, quite a lot of time is involved in waiting. The habitat is there, but where are the birds? Turns out that they are still around, the soft squawk of a Purple Gallinule betrays its presence from behind a thick curtain of reeds. Some Egrets hunt in a soggy plot of land about half a kilometre away. But nothing allows a close approach.

This is something I have noticed over the years, this only abated when there was a two year moratorium on hunting. From the moment the season was reopened, the birds became skittish again. See, a Purple Gallinule is a “waterman”, a Great Egret is a “crane” and they “does make stiff curry”.

I find it laughable when people defend this archaic, barbaric practice of hunting, especially in our tiny island. I’m yet to see someone put forward a coherent argument for the hunting of waterbirds in particular. In fact, I’m yet to see a local hunter put forward a coherent sentence on anything for that matter.

Anyway, we sat around for almost forty minutes without seeing anything reasonable. Perhaps symbolically, there was only this Solitary Sandpiper, living up to its name, looking at me as if to say “well man, we just gotta do what we gotta do.”

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